Tough Week at Lake St. Clair smallmouth bass tournament

One thing about fishing is you don’t catch fish every time you go out. They have the ability to move wherever they want and simply not bite if they aren’t in the mood. Even the best anglers will have days where they struggle to catch fish. That part of the sport is what drives us to continue learning and figure out the puzzle every time we hit the water.
When I left for Michigan last week to compete at Lake St. Clair, one of the premier smallmouth fisheries in the World, I was excited. Many of my competitors from the southern states are not as experienced as I am catching smallmouths so I always feel like I have some advantage when we are able to fish these northern lakes. I had high expectations for a good finish.
My first day of practice was pretty good, I caught several smallmouths in the four and five pound range and found one stretch in the middle of the lake that had a big school of fish. I was concerned a little bit because it was four days before the tournament so it was likely the fish would move but I felt like I would find more good areas over the next couple of practice days. 
The rest of the practice was kind of tough for me. I remained kind of optimistic because sometimes those tougher practices leave you more open minded and everything works out better during the event. I also have a small group of friends who I compete against that I travel and stay with for these tournaments and we share quite a bit of information with each other. These guys include Seth Feider, Chris Groh and the Johnston brothers, Chris and Cory. These guys are some of the best smallmouth anglers on the planet so getting any information from them is helpful and I absorb it all.
These guys told me the baits that were working the best for them and we were fishing the same areas so again, this helped my confidence, even though my practice days were not great.
When the tournament started, the tough fishing continued for me. I fished around several anglers who caught a bunch of fish but for some reason I just could not put the puzzle together, just barely catching a five fish limit that weighed 14 pounds. Anywhere on the Great Lakes, 14 pounds is going to land you near the bottom of the standings and it put me in 68th place in the 85 angler field.
Heading into day two I still remained optimistic that I could have a better day and get out of there with a decent finish. Unfortunately the wheels really fell off. I caught two small keepers early in the day and then went for about six hours without catching a bass. In the final half hour of the day I managed to catch a pair of nice four pounders but it was too little, too late. I brought in four fish and left Michigan with a 76th place finish.
There is a lot of pressure to perform in these tournaments, especially at these northern venues for me. Throughout the day when things are not going your way, this pressure can have negative effects on your fishing and decision making. It takes the fun out of it somewhat as well, which it did for me. During the competition days I try to keep the focus on the fishing and have fun but I got derailed and made some poor decisions this time around. It’s just all part of the learning process.
I have been competing in these tournaments long enough where I have had plenty of bad days and tough events so when it’s over, you take what you can out of it, move on and start thinking about the next one. I got on the road after fishing day two of the tournament and had 18 hours in the truck to think about the decisions that I made on the water. I know that I got moving around a little too much and I fished too fast, not effectively covering some of the areas that I found. I’m sure I’ll get another shot at this lake at some point down the road and when we return I will bring a better game plan. 
It’s nice to be back home to enjoy the last stretch of the summer. I’m looking forward to fishing a few tournaments locally in Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls in September before we resume the Bassmaster Elite Series season again in Alabama in early October. The tough tournament dropped my placing from 15 to 33 in the points race, with four tournaments remaining. The goal is to make the top 40 to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic that will take place in Texas next March. Thankfully this event didn’t totally sink me in that race but I have to finish the season strong to achieve my goal of making the Classic.